Anger Management for Muslim Parents and Teens

Anger Management for Muslim Parents and Teens

Whether they (or we) care to admit it or not, our Muslim teenagers are struggling. As if getting through high school and graduating with a good GPA; enduring the vast changes that come with puberty; dealing with Islamophobia; avoiding tobacco, drugs, alcohol, and dating; and navigating the pitfalls of social media aren’t enough, 2020 gave us the global pandemic of Covid-19. Many schools went fully virtual, leaving high schoolers without the joy of hanging out with friends or attending social events, and some could not even walk across a stage for their own graduations. 

Social distancing was imposed on them at a time when social interactions are vitally important to their development. Almost two years later, although schools have reopened, we are still in the middle of the public health emergency of the century. Some restrictions like masking continue, causing children to still feel isolated. Our youth are more stressed than ever. This stress undoubtedly leads to anger, anxiety, and depression. 

When Anxiety Is the Norm

The Kaiser Family Foundation surveyed adolescents during the pandemic and reported that more than 25% of high school students reported worsened emotional and cognitive health. Additionally, only one-third of them said that they were able to cope with added stressors. That means two-thirds of them did not know how to properly deal with the problems they were experiencing. Our goal as parents is keeping our children safe, modeling good Islamic behavior, and helping them build resilience while facing difficulties. Undoubtedly, another huge trial they are facing is the reality of living in a post-pandemic era, something that we are still grappling with ourselves. 

The first step to confronting teen anxiety and anger is controlling our own emotions. Our children look up to us as role models, teens included, even though they would never say it out loud. If they see us losing control, they are more likely to do the same. So, the first step is taking a step back and a nice, deep breath. Rather than be reactive, we must be proactive. 

The second step is admitting that we cannot do this alone. We need the help of Allah in this insane endeavor, that is parenting a teen. This is where the power of duaa, or supplication, comes in. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to pray for his grandchildren saying, “I commend you to the protection of Allah’s perfect words from every devil, vermin, and every evil eye.” (Bukhari) We must get into the habit of repeating this and other prayers frequently for our children, even as they age. 

Yes, Our Teens are Crazy

Along with our Creator’s help, we can also seek assistance from experts. Two books I highly recommend for parents of adolescents are Yes, Your Teen is Crazy!: Loving Your Kid without Losing Your Mind and Crazy-Stressed by Dr. Michael J. Bradley, a clinical psychologist and an expert on adolescent behavior and substance abuse disorders based in Philadelphia. His family counseling practice and personal experience as a parent has made him a leading authority in his field. He encourages what he calls resilience-focused parenting that aims to train parents to help their children successfully manage life’s greatest challenges. 

Dr. Bradley’s books emphasize that teens’ brains are not fully developed, thus parents should proceed with caution when dealing with them. The National Institute of Mental Health states that the brain does not finish maturing until the mid- to late-20s. The prefrontal cortex, which Allah describes in Surah Al Alaq (96:16) as the “lying, sinful forelock,” is one of the last parts of the brain to fully develop. It is responsible for planning, prioritizing, and, more notably, for controlling impulses. Therefore, teenagers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors or lash out without considering the consequences.

In Crazy Stressed, Dr. Bradley explains that when our children misbehave, we should not take it as a personal attack. He states, “Our teens are actually confronting the things we represent, such as authority and control, but not us as people.” While it may seem completely disrespectful to us in the heat of the moment, our children are learning how to stand up for themselves and question the status quo. These are skills they will need as adults. We must provide the voice of reason and discipline that is still not yet hard-wired in their developing brains. 

Managing Adolescent Anger

Our teens are like toddlers in that they can be impulsive, aggressive, and unreasonable. They often test their limits so they can gauge just how far they can go in their quest for independence. Sometimes this experimentation may lead to a teen tantrum or an angry outburst that can involve yelling, nagging, provoking, insulting, cursing, and even damaging property or hurting others. 

Here are some dos and don’ts that can help you de-escalate arguments based on Bradley’s insights and guidance from our Deen. 

1. DO take deep breaths to stay calm.

Remember you are the pro and your child is the amateur when it comes to maintaining control. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, advised, “If one of you is angry while he is standing, let him sit down so his anger will leave him; otherwise, let him lie down.” He also advised to perform ablution with water to cool off. (Abu Dawud) The extra benefit in doing these things is modeling these habits for our teens.

2. DO sidestep provocations.

When your teen tries to provoke you, and they will, do not give them the reaction they want. Walk away if you must. The Islamic guidance on staying calm in such situations is by saying, “Audhubillahi minna ash Shaytaani ar rajeem” (I seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the outcast).

3. DO take a pause if needed but affirm feelings.

Acknowledge your child’s feelings but let them know that it would be best to wait until everyone is calm to discuss. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, once said, “Whoever gives up argument when he is in the right, a palace will be built from him in the middle (of Paradise).” (Ibn Majah)

4. DO look for a compromise.

"Should I not tell you what is better in degree than (voluntary) prayer, fasting, and charity?" The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, once asked his companions. They said, “Yes.” He said, "Reconciling people, for grudges and disputes are the razor (that shaves faith)." (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, and At-Tirmidhi) Reconciliation between disputing parties with no blood relationship has such a profound significance; imagine between parents and their children.

5. DO offer one chance to start over.

Sometimes an outburst is just that, an outburst – something your teen blurts out without thinking. Dr. Bradley suggests asking your child, “Do you want to try saying that in a different way?” By redirecting their anger, they may pull back and rethink their approach. With this strategy, your child can learn mindfulness, which is key for them to manage their emotions. Allah says, “And hasten towards forgiveness from your Lord and a Paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, prepared for those mindful of Allah. They are those who donate in prosperity and adversity, control their anger, and pardon others. And Allah loves the good-doers.” (Surah al-Imran:133-134) Mindfulness and controlling anger go hand in hand. 

Bradley also outlines what we should not do when dealing with angry teens. DON’T take things personally, be sarcastic or mean, impose immediate punishment, make hasty decisions while angry, and give in to satisfy your child’s whims. Most importantly, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, advised, “Do not become angry.” (Bukhari)

Having empathy is crucial when dealing with our children, both young and old. We sometimes forget what life was like for us growing up and that we were once teenagers, too. For some of us it was just yesterday, while for others it may seem like it was centuries ago. Nevertheless, we also went through our rebellious stages – muttering under our breath when our parents scolded us, questioning why we couldn’t just go hang out, and complaining about how unfair it was. Yet our children are going through way more difficulties than we ever experienced at their age. Through applying the techniques outlined above and putting our trust and prayer in Allah, we can manage the teen years as best we can. Eventually, this too shall pass. 


MashaAllah, thank you for this really excellent article! I have two toddlers and all of this information is really helpful to put kids' behavior in perspective. Whether it is teens or toddlers we are dealing with or even our spouses or other family members everyone deserves understanding and empathy. Superb advice, JazakAllahu khairan!

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